Pricci's Saratoga Diary
For the next 40 days of New York racing, Executive Editor John Pricci will provide his insights on all things Saratoga for the 35th consecutive year in his original "Saratoga Diary." It debuted in 1977, the year Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown and Jatski was placed first in the Travers Stakes following the disqualification of Run Dusty Run. So keep up with the cold exactas, hot issues, and build your own stable of live horses, all from John's unique perspective, exclusively at

Friday, August 05, 2011

Track Bias In the Eye of the Beholder

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, August 5, 2011--Track bias is a lot like beauty. Sometimes, it’s a DaVinci, readily apparent for all the world to observe. Other times, it’s a Jackson Pollock; make of it what you will.

What was surprising about the closer’s bias on Haskell day, according to televised reports, is that at best the observation about how main track races were being run was at best an exaggeration, at worse, a fabrication.

Having published the Equiform Betting Guide with my partner Cary Fotias for Sunday’s Haskell program--a disappointing day, but to be expected when using a value oriented approach and eight race winners paid less than 2-1--I watched the races with interest.

I didn’t notice any particular bias, the track was playing the way it has been in recent years--not the speed highway of old but one that rewards stamina, whatever the running style--but when I heard that a closer’s bias helped the late running Coil and hindered the pace pressing Shackleford, I thought, huh?

And then I thought maybe it’s me, so let’s go to an objective source; running lines in the official result charts. It seemed to indicate that my read was closer to reality, but you be the judge.

Here’s how the dirt races were won on Haskell day right up until the big race:

Race 1: Virtual two-speed number, as first and second place finishers alternated on the lead, the runnerup at 17-1.

Race 3: Winner came from last after second-and third finishers went head to head through fractions of :21.98 and :44.18.

Race 5: Winner came from seventh after place and show finishers (10-1 and 5-1, respectively) survived three-ply pace battle in :22.21 and :44.6.

Race 7: Winner came from last of six after three-ply pace battle in two turner; one of the speeds held place; leader finished last at 22-1.

Race 8: Winner (6-5) came from fourth of seven after yet another three-horse struggle among and pair of 8-1 shots and a 22-1 outsider.

Race 10: Two horses went head-to-head past the half-mile pole in :21.71 and :43.71 with Force Freeze surviving to win the Teddy Drone in 1:07.77 at 16-1.

So, no, Coil did not take advantage of a closer’s bias to win the Haskell in 1:48.20. He took advantage of the fact that he’s very talented and that Shackleford chased an honest pace throughout while turning back from the Belmont’s mile and a half and was beaten a neck for all of it.

So, who are you going to believe, the experts, or your own lyin’ eyes?

Breeders' Cup Showing Fans Some Love

First came the news that entries for the 15 Breeders’ Cup races will be drawn on Monday, four days in advance of the event for the first time in its history. Normally, it’s three days prior.

Back that was back in the day of seven Breeders’ Cup races on one glorious afternoon in the fall. Now there are two, the Friday program, not as glamorous as Saturday’s but considerably more than simply grist for the parimutuel mill.

But the idea is to give fans sufficient time to handicap all 15 races which, as any serious fan knows, is a tremendous amount of work.

It’s not just all the American horses, many meeting for the first time, but the foreign entrants as well. That generally means time-consuming video analysis. This gesture should not go unnoticed.

Now if BC Ltd. would only move pre-entry back three days, the organization would have two weekends to advance the event and fans would have a full two weeks to prepare.

More preparation should lead to larger, certainly couldn’t hurt, and it’s not as if horsemen enter the Breeders’ Cup on a whim at the last minute.


If you’re within hailing distance of the Spa tomorrow, why not find the Saratoga Style Tent in the backyard and register for the Breeders’ Cup Classic Ownership Challenge. On it’s face, it’s a terrific promotion both for the event and the fans.

The challenge consists of six races: the Hollywood Gold Cup, Haskell, Whitney, Pacific Classic, Jockey Club Gold Cup and Goodwood.

Fans who register on these featured days at the track will share in the $250,000 prize money by “owning” a piece of the winner. Last year, for instance, fans who registered on Whitney day would have scored as Whitney winner Blame also won the Classic.

So, there’s no picking winners, just sign up and you own a piece. Unfortunately for SoCal fans, Hollywood Gold Cup winner Game On Dude subsequently suffered an injury and was retired. Just like real ownership; these are the breaks of the game.

Bets N' Pieces

There’s a $216,000 carryover into the Whitney day program and bettors have routinely been spending four or five times the amount of the carryover, a little more than the usual 3-1 rule of thumb…

So there could be a million dollars in the Pick 6 pool tomorrow that features 75 entrants in the sequence that begins with race six. Incidentally, the Grade 1 Whitney might be the toughest stakes puzzle we’ve seen all year.

James Marvin Stakes winner Jackson Bend is pointing for the Grade 1 Forego. He worked an east half-mile in :49.30 this morning on the Oklahoma training track…Rule, winner of the Birdstone Stakes on Thursday, will now point for the Woodward, September 3...

Trainer David Jacobson claimed the jumper Mabou out of Thursday optional claiming event. He plans to run him back in the G1 New York Turf Writers’. His father, the legendary Howard “Buddy” Jacobson, perennially the leading trainer in New York in the 1960s and mentor to the late Bobby Frankel, enjoyed success with this tack back in the 1960s.

Written by John Pricci

Comments (2)

Page 1 of 1 pages